The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
This series is the latest literary-meets-pop-culture phenomenon. In it, North America has collapsed and the cruel government that takes over is forcing the 12 districts that remain to send two teenage representatives to participate in the annual Hunger Games. Sixteen-year-old Katniss is forced to fight 23 other contestants to the death, gladiator-style, in the popular televised event.
Percy Jackson & The Olympians by Rick Riordan
In this five-book fantasy series, protagonist Percy Jackson discovers he is the son of Poseidon, god of the sea, and that Greek mythology is no myth at all. At Camp Half-Blood, he learns that he is half-human and half-immortal, and being son of one of "the big three" (Zeus, Poseidon and Hades) makes him one of the most powerful demigods alive. Throughout the series, Percy and other demigods fight the monsters that are trying to take him down.
The Magicians by Lev Grossman
Billed as a grown-up Harry Potter, this adult novel follows Brooklyn teenager Quentin Coldwater to Brakebills Academy for an education in sorcery (and romance and general college debauchery). After graduation, Quentin moves back to New York with his magical friends but is unimpressed with his mystical life—until he learns that Fillory, the magical land in his favorite childhood books—is real.
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
The seven novels in this classic children's series were published between 1949 and 1954, but their stories stand the test of time. Kids and adults alike will be transported by the tales of ordinary children transported to the world of Narnia. The first three books feature the Pevensie children, who become kings and queens of the kingdom. The other books tell the history and future of the fantastical land. Once you've tackled all seven, you'll have as clear a picture of Narnia as you once did of Hogwarts.
Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Long before Peter Jackson won all those Oscars, this three-volume fantasy series was one of the most popular of the 20th century. A sequel to The Hobbit, the series follows Frodo (Bilbo's nephew!) and his quest to destroy an evil ring and save all of Middle-earth. Sound complicated? That's 'cause it is. But trust us, you'll get sucked right in. Names to know: Frodo Baggins, Gandalf, Gollum.
The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
For über-Potter fans, this tiny volume of fairy tales, the very storybook Dumbledore left to Hermione in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, is a must. The book tells five wizarding tales: "The Wizard and the Hopping Pot," "The Fountain of Fair Fortune," "The Warlock's Hairy Heart," "Babbitty Rabbitty and Her Cackling Stump" and "The Tale of the Three Brothers." The final story introduces the Deathly Hallows, a vital piece of the Harry Potter series' final edition.
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
This trilogy of children's fantasy novels is inspired by John Milton's Paradise Lost and stirred up controversy for its atheist leanings. But the series isn't all deep social commentary: With a teenage heroines, shape-shifting animal sidekicks (called dæmons) and warrior polar bears, His Dark Materials is really just a coming-of-age tale set in a series of parallel universes. A film based on the first book of the series, The Golden Compass, was released in 2007 starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig.
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
This 1985 novel eventually spawned an 11-book series, but the original is still the best. Set in the future, when aliens have attacked humankind twice, the story revolves around young Ender Wiggin. As a child, Ender is taken by the government to learn the art of war through a series of games. It quickly becomes clear that Ender is a genius in his field. The story follows him through his military training, culminating in a final exam that may not be what it seems.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
This illustrated work of fiction is about a 12-year-old orphan, clock keeper and thief who lives secretly in the walls of a 1930s Paris train station until his undercover life is gravely threatened. Selznick describes his book as "not exactly a novel, and it's not quite a picture book, and it's not really a graphic novel, or a flip book, or a movie, but a combination of all these things." But it will be a movie soon enough. With almost 300 pages of pictures, this 526-page book is being made into the first 3-D extravaganza from legendary director Martin Scorsese.
The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini
Think your child could write the next Harry Potter? Maybe he can! Eragon, the first in this three-book series, was written when Paolini was only 15. The stories are set in the land of Alagaesia and focus on teenage Eragon, his dragon Saphira and their attempts at evading capture from the evil tyrant Galbatorix. In 2007, the author announced that there would be a fourth book to the series, so get started now and you and the kids could be caught up in time to read the final book upon its release.